The women’s basketball team looks to ride a recent surge into playoffs
The Northwest Conference women’s basketball standings are heating up as the season winds down. With six games left in the regular season, Pacific sits third in the conference with an 8-4 record. They are looking up at the defending champions Whitman (15-5, 10-2) and nationally ranked Puget Sound (18-3, 11-1).
The Boxers have won four of their last five games and are look to take this momentum into the NWC playoffs. The Boxers are a team with big-time players and even bigger goals. The Boxers are led by senior guard Brilie Kovaloff, an All-NWC First Teamer in 2022 who is currently second in the conference, scoring 15.8 points a game. The Boxer’s roster also features the conference’s assist leader, senior guard Rilee Price (3.6 apg), who excels both ways, and the blocks leader in junior forward Danica Schmidt (1.6 bpg), a defensive stalwart. The Boxers are well-rounded and are looking to make a statement.
This group got their foot in the proverbial “playoff basketball door” last year, chopping down the Loggers in Tacoma before going all the way out to Walla Walla, Washington, and falling to 2022 champion Whitman. This 22-23 season, the Boxers lost NWC Player of the Year and All-American Camy Aguinaldo, but the team still has playoff experience. This year starting five was a big part of the team that made the playoffs last year—and once a dog gets a taste of blood, there’s no going back.
Sophomore guard Emily Holsan, who made an immediate impact for the Boxers as a freshman, believes her team is poised to make a deep playoff run and finally win the conference title they have been chasing in recent years.
“Our goal for the season is to improve overall as a team and win a conference championship,” Holsan stated. Pacific’s lone Northwest Conference title happened in 1996 when they defeated Willamette 66-55 to take the crown.
Holsan is a do-it-all guard who has filled in wherever the Boxers have needed her, either as a starter or as the sixth player. She’s had to play both guard and wing due to injuries on the team this year, and has excelled at each.
“I think I do a good job of staying composed and bringing energy, especially on the defensive end, which can turn into offense,” said Holsan.
Like Holsan, the rest of the team takes pride in their defense. The Boxers sport the best defense in the conference, allowing a measly 52.8 points per game. They have also blocked the most shots and forced the third-most turnovers in the NWC.
But the Boxers must get over that Washington hump to get where they want to go. Against UPS and Whitman, Pacific is a combined 2-8 over the last two years.
“We have to make sure we stay locked in each week and focus on each team we’re playing,” explained Holsan. “We must stay healthy and focus on our common goal.”
The road to an NWC title finishes with a home game against Willamette, a date with Puget Sound in Tacoma, and back in the Grove against Pacific Lutheran. It commences in Newberg against the Bruins of George Fox. It’s ship or bust for the Boxers. — Cole Weber